Do parents discriminate against kids who are overweight, even when those kids are their own?
A recent study by researchers at the University of North Texas in Denton, published in the journal Obesity, has found that, at least as kids get older, parents are less likely to help their overweight offspring in two key ways buying a car and paying for college — than they are to help children who are not overweight.
“No one is going to be surprised that society discriminates against the overweight, but I think it is surprising that it can come from your parents,” study co-author Adriel Boals told Reuters Health. “Similar to college tuition, purchasing a car during the college years is a major expense and investment that parents can choose to provide assistance with or not.”
Boals offers two possible explanations as to what might be going on. “One could just be from an evolutionary standpoint; parents may be less likely to invest resources in offspring they believe are unfit,” he told Reuters. Or it could be that parents are just reflecting our cultural bias against people who are overweight. “I don’t think the parents are doing this knowingly,” he added.
This dispiriting study leaves us wondering if parents of younger kids who are overweight unwittingly discriminate as well. You’d like to think that we parents give our children unconditional love and support. But of course, we’re humans with responses we may not always be aware of let alone in control of.
What do you think? Is it a cultural bias at play? Do you think the whole “War on Obesity” thing is hitting a little to hard, a little close to home? Or is something else going on?